Beef prices likely to go even higher

Mother Nature is helping drive up the cost of dinner.
If you're planning a backyard barbecue in the near future, get ready to fork over more money.

Beef prices have hit at an all-time high and they're expected to keep rising. So what's causing the price hike?

A couple of years ago, prices were about half of what they are now. Mother Nature has a lot to do with the prices, as does supply and demand. And, unfortunately high prices aren't likely letting up anytime soon.

Picking up your favorite cuts of meat from the grocery store isn't as pleasant as it used to be. If you haven't noticed, you're probably paying quite a bit more than you used to.

"Ground beef is at about $2.99 and that's pretty much stayed. It's your higher end steaks that we've seen the high jump in, about $2.00 a pound," said Richard Vasquez, Meat Department Manager, Wood-dale Meat Market.

The latest jump in specialty cuts happened within the last two weeks. And, price increases are something Vasquez has seen routinely within the last year.

"One is supply and demand, and the second is the drought in the midwest has a lot to do with it. The supply of cattle, the grain, the corn has a lot to do with it," he explained.

The last couple of years have been particularly hard on cattle ranchers and their herds nationwide. Kern County cattle ranchers say the drought gripping much of the nation, has led to higher feed prices for livestock, forcing ranchers to reduce their herds which lowers the supply of beef.

"This appears to be a long-term spike because we've seen a reduction in the mother cow herd in the United States, and with that there's no calves for next year so we look to see this to go on for a long time," said Jack Lavers, President, Kern County Cattleman's Association.

At the same time, ranchers are finding it more profitable to export beef to other countries.

"We're actually exporting our own meat to countries like South Korea, Mexico and to Russia. So with all that going on we're playing a little game here trying to make sure the American consumer is getting all the meat they want and it's driving up the costs," added Lavers.

Back at the Wood-dale Market, managers say prices are taking a toll on them and their customers. And, unfortunately meat prices in general are likely only going to get higher as the year goes on.

"Everything I'm seeing, at least a 10 percent increase in all proteins."

Officials with the beef industry say it usually takes about two to three years to cycle, which means it could be a couple of years before any relief for customers is seen at the market.

But, one thing that could help in the short-term is rain. That would help save this year's corn crop in the midwest.
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